Language learning, Gangnam style
Psy’s famous song satirises Seoul’s Gangnam district. Source: HWT Image Library
FOR all the gloom about Asian languages in Australia, one private college is finding a healthy appetite – offshore.
“The next big wave in language study looks like it’s going to be Asian languages,” says Ian Pratt of the Queensland-based Lexis English.
The grim 2010-12 downturn at home in the ELICOS market, as well as Australia’s red tape, led his company to set up its first offshore college in the now famous Gangnam district of Seoul, Korea.
“It’s spectacular, the pre-opening enrollments are through the roof,” he said.
Due to start Korean language courses next month, the college in Seoul has attracted students from countries as diverse as Norway, Switzerland, the US, Japan, Sweden, Pakistan, France, Malaysia, Australia and Hong Kong.
Mr Pratt attributes the interest to the popularity of Korea’s cultural exports – K-pop being the best known – and to generous scholarships intended to encourage Europeans to pick up Asian languages.
“The trend towards learning a third language is an interesting one in itself, with most of our European students coming to Korea having already studied English to a very high level in their own countries or overseas,” he said.
The Seoul college also offers English courses but without Australia’s restrictions.
“The potential for us to innovate with very strict regulation here (in Australia) is very limited,” Mr Pratt said.
For example, instead of each college having a director of studies complete with mandated qualifications, Mr Pratt believes it would sometimes make more sense to have a “human resources” person in that post.
The training, mentoring and professional development of teachers could be better done by an ex-DOS who moves between colleges within a network.
Lexis English began in Noosa, now has five Australian schools, and a college in Japan is also planned.